Portal to Trouble or Success?

Zack Tobias

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Every student has a similar story. You took a test earlier in the week that you didn’t feel too confident about. And then it happens, a few days later your parents ask to talk about your grades. Before the assignment is even returned, your parents already know about it. The way students see it, the Parent Portal is making their already stressful lives more stressful. Of course the Parent Portal isn’t just a diabolical invention to make teenagers miserable. Parents and teachers alike see positive effects of online gradebook access. It is a polarizing issue becoming increasingly relevant as many American schools are switching or have switched to digital gradebooks. Is Parent Portal more harmful or hurtful for students? Parents? Teachers?

Lewis Mills senior, Jack Nepomuceno, was vocal in his dislike toward the Parent Portal. “It’s pretty stressful always having parents know my grades before I do.” he continued, “It doesn’t give me much of a chance to solve my own problems before my parents know about it. Parent Portal adds a sort of dependency on my Mom and Dad for certain in-school issues.” This slightly overbearing parents idea is common amongst students. It’s safe to say most high school students would have no problem with their parents not checking up on their grades constantly.

On the other side of this debate are the parents. My mother, Debra Tobias, loves the idea of the Parent Portal. “It makes it much easier to communicate with your teachers if something is wrong.” she said. “ I think a little bit of added pressure is good for you. Plus, teachers tend to be on top of the ball if they know that parents are looking on.” Lastly she added, “I’m able to keep updated on everything using my phone, I should be able to see how my son is doing in school.”

Teachers make as excellent mediators because they are affected by both the positive and negative access of Powerschool. My Aunt, Karen Tobias, a middle school teacher in Farmington, weighed in the topic. “When we first started to use Powerschool, I didn’t quite understand the technology behind the whole thing. I eventually got the hang of it but many non-technologically savvy co workers still don’t use it properly. It can lead to some mistakes in grading.” She continued to say “It motivates me to enter in grades faster before parents start getting involved. So overall, it’s an effective tool if used correctly, and that’s a big if!.” When asked if there is a difference between middle school and high school grading she said, “High school teachers have to enter more grades and the assignments are longer. But the idea is pretty much the same.”

Middle school teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron, published an online article called “The Parent Portal: The Pros and Cons of Transparent Gradebooks”. She is very outspoken regarding her concerns and benefits of the new online grading system. In her article she discusses how the portal accessibility is “the present and the future,” and urges educators to adapt to the new technology. “Our job as educators is to prepare our students for their future. Communication plays a large role in that job.”

So is Powerschool helpful or harmful? It depends entirely on who you ask. Students will tell you it adds stress and they don’t want mom and dad meddling in their business. Typical teenage attitude. Parents on the other hand think it is an excellent innovation and makes sense with a constantly plugged-in society. It also gives them an opportunity to get involved if need be. Teachers might have some trouble adjusting to it but if used properly, can be very helpful. Plus with parents watching, teachers can be further compelled to enter grades faster and more accurately. Like it or not, Powerschool/Parent Portal is here to stay. My fellow students, use it as an opportunity to get good grades so your parents have nothing to be mad about.

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